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Old 06-30-2005, 05:36 PM   #16
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# Don’t fall for old straw-man trick

AUSTIN, Texas — The first thing I ever learned about politics was never to let anyone else define what you believe, or what you are for or against. I think for myself.

I am not “you liberals” or “you people on the left who always ...” My name is Molly Ivins, and I can speak for myself, thank you. I don’t need Rush Limbaugh or Karl Rove to tell me what I believe.

Setting up a straw man, calling it liberal and then knocking it down has become a favorite form of “argument” for those on the right. Make some ridiculous claim about what “liberals” think, and then demonstrate how silly it is. Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and many other right-wing ravers never seem to get tired of this old game. If I had a nickel for every idiotic thing I’ve ever heard those on the right claim “liberals” believe, I’d be richer than Bill Gates.

The latest and most idiotic statement yet comes from Karl Rove, who is not, actually, an objective observer. He is George Bush’s hatchet man. Last week, Rove, in an address to the Conservative Party of New York, made the following claim: “Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.”

This seemed to the editorial writers at the San Diego Union-Tribune such a reasonable summary of the liberal position they couldn’t figure out why Democrats were “hyperventilating” and getting “bent out of shape.”

“What is harder to understand is how Democrats can think they can have it both ways,” they wrote. “Even as they beat their chests and profess support for military action, they can’t help but criticize the military and do everything they can to undermine the war effort.”

What a deep mystery. Let’s see if we can help the San Diego thinkers solve it. On Sept. 14, 2001, Congress approved a resolution authorizing the president to take military action. The vote in the Senate was 98 to zero; the vote in the House was 420 to one. The lone dissenter was Democrat Barbara Lee of California, who expressed qualms about an open-ended war without a clear target.

Find me the offer for therapy and understanding in that vote. Anyone remember what actually happened after 9/11? Unprecedented unity, support across the board, joint statements by Democratic and Republican political leaders. The whole world was with us. The most important newspaper in France headlined, “We Are All Americans Now,” and all our allies sent troops and money to help. That is what George Bush has pissed away with his war in Iraq.

The vote on invading Iraq was 77 to 23 in the Senate and 296 to 133 in the House. By that time, some liberals did question the wisdom of invasion because: A) Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and B) it looked increasingly unlikely that Iraq actually had great stores of weapons of mass destruction, since the United Nations inspectors, who were on the ground, couldn’t find any sign of them — even though Donald Rumsfeld claimed we knew exactly where they were.

Since my name is Molly Ivins and I speak for myself, I’ll tell you exactly why I opposed invading Iraq: because I thought it would be bad for this country, our country, my country. I opposed the invasion out of patriotism, and that is the reason I continue to oppose it today — I think it is bad for us. I think it has done nothing but harm to the United States of America. I think we have created more terrorists than we faced to start with and that our good name has been sullied all over the world. I think we have alienated our allies and have killed more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein ever did.

I did not oppose the war because I like Saddam Hussein. I have been active in human rights work for 30 years, and I told you he was a miserable s.o.b. back in the ’80s, when our government was sending him arms.

I did not oppose the war because I am soft on terrorists or didn’t want to get Osama bin Laden.

To the contrary, I thought it would be much more useful to get bin Laden than to invade Iraq — which, once again, had nothing to do with 9/11. I believe the case now stands proved that this administration used 9/11 as a handy excuse to invade Iraq, which it already wanted to do for other reasons.

It is one thing for a political knife-fighter like Karl Rove to impugn the patriotism of people who disagree with him: We have seen this same crappy tactic before, just as we have seen administration officials use 9/11 for political purposes again and again. But how many times are the media going to let them get away with it?

The first furious assault on the patriotism of Democrats came right after the 9/11 commission learned President Bush had received a clear warning in August 2001 that Osama bin Laden was planning a hijacking.

Batten down the hatches: This is the beginning of an administration push to jack up public support for the war in Iraq by attacking anyone with enough sense to raise questions about how it’s going.

Ivins is a syndicated columnist.

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